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Me, my brother and Silo Sam

Recently, I’ve been enjoying watching shows on A&E related to professional wrestling back in the earlier days, with profiles on wrestlers I grew up watching as well as classic rivalries.

I will admit that for a brief period of my mid-teens I was a wrestling fan. So, watching these profiles has been fun.

Back in the mid-1980s, the former Showboat Casino, at the end of Boulder Highway, used to be home to many of the AWA wrestling matches. Back then, the AWA was home to some of the biggest names in the sport including Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Jesse Ventura, Sgt. Slaughter, the Road Warriors and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka to name just a few. It was the breeding ground for the WWF (now WWE) as well as other wrestling organizations.

I used to watch the AWA on television most Saturdays. I think it was on around noon. These matches were not the cream of the crop by any means. They would feature one of the AWA stars but it was usually against guys you’d swear were pulled off the street and never had a chance to win the match. These were guys like Jake “The Milkman” Milliman and Nacho Barrera. Basically, they were to wrestling what the Washington Generals are to the Harlem Globetrotters.

The reason I bring this up is because in watching the A&E specials, it got me thinking about the one and only time I attended a live taping of a pro wrestling match. In talking to my brother, Scott, and finding a cool website called Crazymax.com, which lists every AWA main event, we have narrowed the time we went down to July 10, 1985, at the Showboat. At the time I was 16 and he was a few months shy of his 11th birthday.

As we recalled that night and had plenty of laughs in doing so, we couldn’t remember if I bought the tickets or our parents. Either way, it was a night to remember.

For context, here is the lineup that night according to Crazymax.com:

7/10/85 – Las Vegas, NV @ the Showboat Sports Pavilion

Sgt. Slaughter won battle royal

Sgt. Slaughter defeated Larry Zbyszko via DQ

Fabulous Freebirds defeated Curt Hennig and Greg Gagne

Nick Bockwinkel defeated Baron Von Raschke

Billy Robinson defeated Bob Backlund

Brad Rheingans drew Ray Stevens

Reported Attendance: 1,500

We came to the conclusion that this was the one we saw for a few reasons: it was in the summer, the year fits the period when we enjoyed wrestling, we remember there being a 20-man battle royal and we were fans of Sgt. Slaughter and especially Baron Von Raschke with his patented submission hold “The Claw” where he’d grab an opponent by their forehead and squeeze it like a melon until they submitted or “passed out.” As the oldest of three kids, I may or may not have used this move on my siblings at one time or another.

In talking to Scott, a few things came to mind about that night. The first, I remember seeing one of the wrestlers in the walkway (he was in the royal rumble) as we went to our seats. In doing a little research I surmised that it was Silo Sam, who was listed as 7-foot-7 and weighed 475 pounds. It was like an eclipse as he walked by. He was wearing these overalls that I guarantee you he did not get off the rack at Tractor Supply Company, unless they were designed to actually cover a tractor. But based on his size, Silo could very well have been his birth name.

We both recalled the wrestlers that night having to make announcements from the ring telling the audience that unless they stopped fighting, promoters would end the evening’s festivities. Keep it classy, Vegas.

An image that has stuck with me for nearly four decades was that of a couple, probably in their 30s, standing on their seats, flipping the bird to the “bad guy” who was walking to the ring. They were also yelling “duck you” if we had had auto-correct back then. The best part was that their son, who was about 10, sat in his chair eating his popcorn with a look of, “Yup, those are my folks.” Again, keep it classy, Vegas.

I will admit something else. I had almost forgotten about this and needless to say, when I mentioned it to Scott, he razzed me a bit and deservedly so. Around this same time of my AWA fandom, there was a really good lineup one night at the Showboat. I got out the phone book, looked up the Showboat, and called the first number I found, asking if I could get the results of the wrestling card. It should come as no surprise, the woman who answered sounded a bit dumbfounded by my question and transferred me to someone else who was unable to help. To this day, I still don’t know the results. Maybe I’ll give them a call.

Until next time, “Editor Boy” Ron Eland signing off.

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